Top tech tips

Here’s our roundup of some of our favourite products, tips and tricks to help make technology accessible for all.

Project Activate

This is a new app for Android devices which enables you to use your phone without talking or using the touchscreen. The app uses your phone’s camera to capture your facial expression and then trigger an associated action. For example, a smile could mean send a text message. Raising your eyebrows could call a friend and opening your mouth could play music. The app processes all the commands itself and never saves any of the camera images of your face. It is available in the Google Play store and runs on Android 5 or above.


Coming soon… Adaptive Listening for Amazon Echo

Amazon has recognised that some people take longer to ask Alexa questions than others. It could be that it just takes you a bit of time to get your thoughts together in a succinct way, others may just speak slowly or have speech impediments. Amazon plans to release an ‘Adaptive Listening mode’ whereby you can set Alexa to wait longer before it responds. This isn’t available just yet, but when it is, you will need to have the latest version of the Alexa app installed on your device to use this.


Captioning hack

Do you use live captioning on videos and get frustrated when there are no subtitling options? This great workaround will solve your problem. Using Google Chrome as your web browser, head over
to Settings > Advanced > Accessibility > Live Caption and turn it on. Now when you play back your video the live captioning panel will appear at the bottom of the screen and caption back what
is being said. You can also change the caption size and style to suit your preferences. Brilliant!


The race is on

Inclusive video gaming was a popular topic at the Deafblind Convention back in October. So, gamers will be pleased to know that the new Forza Horizon 5 racing car game includes a ground-breaking choice of accessibility options. Customisable features include high contrasts, customisable subtitling, and interactive voice chat. We’ve heard that on-screen sign language interpreters will be available soon as well!


Apple SignTime

BSL Apple users can now access Apple’s retail customer care teams quickly and easily through the new ‘SignTime’ service. This means you no longer need to think about booking a BSL interpreter in advance. We have found that it’s quick to connect and you can also use it in Apple stores too. To start a call, go to: www.apple.com/uk/contact.


RNIB Talking Books Alexa skill

Did you know that you can now access RNIB talking books through Alexa? You will need a few things in place first, such as an Amazon Echo device (Alexa), be connected to an Amazon account, to be a member of the RNIB reading services and have the RNIB Talking Books Alexa skill linked to your RNIB reading services account.

Once this is in place you can access over 34,000 books from the library by just saying: “Alexa, open RNIB talking books”.

To find out more and receive additional set up support, click here to visit the RNIB support page.


Ego4D Project

Ego4D is a project led by the Facebook AI (artificial intelligence) team to create an ‘egocentric’ rich dataset of video footage which will help them to develop AI systems to help us in our everyday life. The team are working with research participants to record more than 2000 hours of video footage of personalised interactions with objects, our environment and people. This will help them to develop a number of systems such as using a computer to locate missing keys, or helping us to learn to play a musical instrument.


Braille Tutor for iPad

One of our members has recommended the Braille Tutor app for iPads, which gives you the chance to practice braille even if you don’t have a braille keyboard. The free version of the app will give you 19 lessons, and you can pay £1.99 for a further 72 lessons. This is available on iOS or above.


RNIB Accessible Radio

We are often asked for help in setting up and using radios. Many people struggle with tuning in radio stations and identifying what all the buttons actually do. The new RNIB digital radio solves many of these accessibility challenges – and we love it!

It has large, tactile buttons which audibly describe what they do; a high contrast LCD display featuring white text on a black background; a USB port to playback RNIB talking books; programmable voice memos to help with medication reminders and important calendar events and even a low temperature alerting system. There is also a 3.5mm headphone socket – compatible with neckloops. For more information click here. 


Accessible washing machines

Washing machines have traditionally been challenging to use for visually impaired users but German manufacturer Miele, has changed this. The Miele GuideLine washing machine uses strong visual contrasts, raised tactile dots and audio cues to overcome these barriers. The control uses raised dots and audio beeps to help you select the right program, temperature and spin cycle. For more information click here.


Easier train travel

Missing important rail announcements and disruption information on station platforms is frustrating for everybody. For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, travelling can become a miserable experience. Network rail have now installed 10 BSL touchscreen information screens on the passenger areas at Euston station with a further 10 more planned by the end of 2021. The BSL information updates can be uploaded to the screens via 4G soon after the disruptions become known. The touchscreens also display text based information which can be enlarged and colour contrasted. Network rail hope to expand this to other stations too.


Passenger Assistance app

You can now book passenger assistance for train journeys via an app. The Passenger Assistance app has been built with advice from many disability groups. You simply create your profile, select your journey and specify the assistance that you require. You will receive an email confirmation and a notification on the app when your request has been received. Search ‘Passenger Assistance’ in the App store or Google Play store.


The LiDAR sensor

The LiDAR scanner is a new sensor built into some of the latest Apple devices, including the new iPhone 12 Pro. It identifies sounds, speech and haptic feedback to tell you what and who is around you and how far away they are. This is great for everyday situations like queuing, social distancing and finding a safe place to sit down.


Accessibility improvements in Apple iOS 14

Apple have included an impressive number of accessibility updates in their latest iOS release. Here are a few of them:

  • FaceTime ‘Speaking’ feature: This feature gives focus to the active speaker or signer by making their tile have prominence on the screen. To turn this on, go to Settings – FaceTime – Speaking
  • Magnifier: The inbuilt magnifier now has its own dedicated app with customized controls, meaning you can now use the app to magnify and adjust the brightness and colours of anything you need to look at!
  • Back Tap: This new feature allows you to tap the back of your phone to select an icon, perfect for those with limited dexterity. Go to Settings – Accessibility – Touch
  • Headphone Accommodations: If you use Apple and Beats headphones, you can now optimize your audio frequencies and there is even a ‘custom audio set wizard’ to help you choose the right settings for you.

Facebook Portal TV

We love the new Facebook Portal TV, a small black box that sits on top of your TV and allows you to use your TV for video calls! One member told us: “These days I often go about my daily tasks and have a friend chatting to me in the background, it’s fantastic!”


Welcome!

Have you ever felt it would be nice if the person in the shop interacted with you and not the person you were with? The WelcoMe app is changing customer service by placing the disabled consumer at the heart of any interaction.

You set up a profile on the free app and then set up a visit to a participating venue including shopping lists or anything you would like them to know about your visit. As soon as you press “send” they are informed of your arrival and when you walk through the door they are better prepared than ever before.


 

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